Friday, March 30, 2012


Ugh, I feel so behind today - on projects I want to be doing, projects I need to be doing, blogs I want to be reading.  Well there's more, but let's reign in that whine.  We stayed up rather late last night at book club, and this mama is feeling it (still, totally worth it).

But, let's focus on progress.  Today I took a little bite out of my end-of-March list by puzzling through some improv blocks for the Love circle of do. Good Stitches.

I say puzzling because improv is often a visual puzzle.  Which is a good thing in my world, to be clear.  This month Natalie of Greenleaf Goods asked us to make improv chevrons a la this tutorial by Six White Horses.  In the tutorial she's making larger blocks that our size for the bee.  My chevrons definitely ended up oversized so far as scale goes.

Source: board via Natalie on Pinterest

I pulled scraps in colors chosen by Natalie:  "turquoise, robin's egg blue, orange-yellows, and greys."  I had to include the image above (taken from Natalie's instructions here) because it's just too delicious not to share.  I jumped on that "orange-yellow" since I have so many golden yellow fabrics that straddle that line.  It's a delightful shade.

Golden-yellow, turquoise, robin's egg blue and gray

And then following, the tutorial, I built out my center chevrons (um, too big), 

building. improv chevrons

which I finished up just minutes ago as these two 12.5" blocks.  Fortunately for me, Natalie says she doesn't mind if we have 2 rather than 3 chevrons in our blocks.  So, it's all good.

improv chevrons for Love circle

Thank goodness it's Friday!  I desperately want to say that I'm going to get to log some major sewing time this weekend, but Alas I know that we must actually finish the garden makeover this weekend in preparation for Easter festivities we'll be hosting next week.  Crazy town.  So, my modest little goal is to make a lot of progress on Aria's dress instead of general quilting fabulousness.

Modest progress indeed when I'm staring down a taunting stack of new fabric.  Sometimes reality is cruel.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Festival of Scrappiness - Winners!

Well, you're all winners, really, as I believe you know!  And, wow, there were so many quilters who submitted multiple quilts.  How thrilling to see millions of scraps put to good use by your industrious and talented hands!  Gold stars all around!!!

But, yes, there are actual winners who get to take home actual prizes thanks to some generous folks who will also be herewith mentioned and appreciated.  I've just finished viewing and visiting ALL of the entries.  Now it's time to put Mr. Random to work to award our door prizes...

::1::  From The Warm Company, one 90" x 40 YARD roll of Warm & Natural batting goes to....

Entry 164, Kristy Anderson  

 ::2::  From The Intrepid Thread, the complete Hello Pilgrim by Lizzy House fat quarter set goes to....

Entry 39, Nicke at Kiss, Kiss Quilt

  ::3::  From JAQs fabrics, her Pretty Stripes Half Yard bundle goes to....

Entry 124, Kelly at KelbySews

::4::  From Fresh Modern Fabric, a lively Metro Living fat quarter bundle goes to....

Entry 59, Marion at My Quilt Diet

::5::  From Pink Castle Fabrics, the complete Hope Valley Fat Quarter Bundle goes to....

Entry 198, Krista at Spotted Stone Studio

::6::  From Aurifil, a set of 12 extra large spools of their cotton 50wt threads goes to....

Entry 55, Tunde

::7::  From Marmalade Fabrics, Amy Butler's Lark Dreamer fat quarter set goes to....

Entry 6, Deb of Life on the Selvage Edge

::8::  From Bloomerie, a trio of delightful Moda charm packs:  Circa 1934, A Walk in the Woods and Reunion goes to....

Entry 11, Flaun of I Plead Quilty

::9::  From Emily Cier of Carolina Patchworks, a signed copy of Scrap Republic goes to....

Entry 161, Rockgranny

::10::  From Canadian-based Mad About Patchwork, one yard of a classic Kaffe Fassett print along with 12 fat quarters coordinating shot cotton solids goes to....

Entry 185, Hafza

::11::  From The Warm Company, one 90" x 40 YARD roll of Warm & White batting goes to....

Entry 218, Anna at Six White Horses  

::12::  From Contemporary Cloth, this super-fun half yard bundle of Fly Away by Amy Schimler and Remix by Ann Kelle goes to....

Entry 260, Marika
::13::  From Swell Cloth, a Jennifer Paganelli Crazy Love fat quarter bundle goes to....

Entry 316, Anne

::14::  From Aurifil, a set of 12 spools of their wool 12wt threads goes to....

Entry 84, Kelly at Jeliquilts

 ::15::  From Whipstitch, a Pezzy Prints complete fat quarter bundle goes to....

Entry 211, Sharon S

::16::  Scraps from guest blogger Completely Cauchy go to....

Entry 27, Vicki in MN

::17::  Scraps from guest blogger Badskirt Amy go to....

Entry 113, Michelle at Little Peanut

::18::  Scraps from guest blogger Jolene of Blue Elephant Stitches go to....

Entry 16, Bettina

::19::  Scraps from guest blogger Ayumi of Pink Penguin go to....

Entry 253, Hitch & Thread

::20::  And my scraps go to....

Entry 280, Jennifer at My Artfully Chaotic Life

FMF grand prize

And the Grand Prize from Sew Love Fabrics, the complete Free Market Fancy fat quarter bundle goes too....

Balu51 on Flickr for the stunning Star Quilt below:

Star Quilt

What a cipher it was to choose just one quilt for the grand prize!  But this scrappy star quilt has certainly captured my heart.  I can stare and stare out it, noticing how she used different scraps for the entire work (no background solids), making careful use of values to define a hazy division between the upper left blues and the lower right reds.  It's charming how some stars fade away and others stand out.  And then there are little diamonds where blocks meet.  Altogether a very artful use of scraps, I'm sure you'll agree!

Congratulations Balu51 and all other winners!  I am emailing each of you now, so check your inbox.  Thanks again for everyone who made the Scrap Attack Quilt Along and Festival of Scrappiness possible, from guest bloggers to sponsors to each individual quilter who joined in.  It's been an absolute pleasure!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

the Pfaff Smarter

It's high time I came clean about something.... I have a new sewing machine! Yes, actually, I've been sewing on it for about a month now since I wanted to use it extensively before giving you my thoughts.  Did my projects give me away?

Pfaff Smater 1100 Pro

When I went shopping at Charlotte Sewing Center the Pfaff Smarter 1100 Pro emerged as my favorite machine.  It was a close call with the Pfaff Expression 4.0, which was out of my price range.  When the owner made me an offer I couldn't refuse, I decided to buy the Smarter right then and there.  Although I had considered looking for a used machine, it felt good to buy a machine with a warranty from someone I wanted to work with.

Pfaff Smarter, how I love thee.  Let me count the ways...

Pfaff Smater 1100 Pro

*9" harp space.  Quilting the baby quilts I don't even notice that there is limited harp space.  With Oodalolly, which was large, quilting was truly comfortable.

Pfaff Smater 1100 Pro, quilting table

*Quilting table.  Bill included Pfaff's "quilter's toolbox" which includes a large clear table for my machine.  Adore!  I find myself far less fatigued when quilting with a table.  Plus, it looks very official, don't you think?  wink.

*Automatic tension adjustment.  So far, this really works.   I've free motioned two projects, plus done various tests, and the tension on the back has been perfect each time, even when quilting loops!

Pfaff Smater, auto tension 

*Dual feed.  Like all upper end Pfaff's, this machine has dual feed.  A little black lever pulls the fabric through from the top in conjunction with the feed dogs.  You can easily disengage dual feed, but I never do. It's there and I don't have to think about it.  It works well.  And, now it is SO much quieter when I sew.

*Knee lift.   The knee lift is a metal lever that rests beside the knee.  I press my knee slightly to the side to lift the presser foot.  This is such a time saver.  I love being able to hold onto a project while adjusting the foot. Seriously. use. this. constantly.  Would not want to go without this feature again!

 Pfaff Smater 1100 Pro

*Semi industrial.  The Smarter has certain made-to-last features like a separate motor for bobbin winding, a vertical rotary bobbin (which is nothing like cheap vertical bobbins), more metal parts and the set up to use thread spools or thread cones. 

*Needle up/down foot pedal tap.  Didn't know about this until later.  Love it!  I'm a fan of the needle up/down button.  My new machine has a button on the face of the machine, but you can also control needle up/down by tapping the foot pedal.  Anything that allows me to keep my hands in place saves time.

*Automatic thread cutting. This is not a "must have" for me, but it does save time and thread.   Pushing the button trims the thread to about an inch from where I've stopped sewing.  This is particularly handy when quilting since it can be hard to get under a quilt to trim the bottom thread tail manually.  I still prefer to chain piece to save time and thread, even with an auto cutter.  The Smarter chain pieces beautifully.

*Extra wide needle position.  This machine can adjust to make a wider stitch than average.  The flexibility is nice.  Next time I'm doing dense straight-line quilting, using a wider stitch width will help me make my lines just a tad farther apart, thus saving some time.

So, yes, I am thrilled!  But, no, the machine is not perfect. 

First off, the Smarter I brought home was flawed.  The auto thread cutter usually didn't work.  It would often unthread the needle whenever I used it.  Because the problem happened immediately and Pfaff stands behind their products, Bill at Charlotte Sewing Center verified the malfunction and gave me a brand new machine.  Happy camper! My new Smarter works perfectly.  And, as an aside, Bill says this is only the 2nd Smarter with which he's ever seen a malfunction of any kind.

One feature I don't like is the low bobbin sensor.  I'd rather just sew until my bobbin is emptied all the way.  The Smarter warns that the bobbin is almost empty and stops sewing. You can start sewing again, but it'll stop again.  It's a go/stop thing that's frustrating and probably not good for the machine.  I guess I need to get used to wasting some thread.

But there's one more thing that's annoying.  Sometimes I'll be merrily sewing along when my machine will give a warning beep.  The screen shows that there is a problem with the upper thread.  I'll stop sewing and find a mess on the underside of my stitches for about 3" where the thread is all snarled and the sewing is not right.  It must be ripped out.  At first when this happened, I would rethread the top thread completely to fix the problem.  But when it happened more than a handful of times (remember, I've been sewing on it for a month), I started investigating.  It is my belief that the problem is a tension problem that is caused by the fact that I only use the knee to lift the presser foot just barely enough.  I rarely lift the foot to the true "up" position.  I believe that the auto tension adjustment gets thrown off by all this sewing without lifting the presser foot to allow it to correct itself.  When I remember to occasionally fully lift the presser foot, the problem disappears.

Aria's Easter dress skirt

Just this week I was working on Aria's Easter dress skirt.  I settled on a simple patchwork design, which means there are lots of seams in her skirt.  As I don't have a serger I would usually go back over the seams with a zigzag stitch after normal straight-line sewing to overcast the edges against fraying.  But it occurred to me that the Smarter probably has a stitch that does both at once - the straight sewing and the overcast.

Pfaff Smater 1100 Pro, quick functions

In fact, there it is as option 7 in the most commonly used functions on the front of the machine.  When I selected option 7, the display showed me which foot to use.

Telling me what foot to use

See, it's that funny looking drawing slightly to the right with the number "3" beside it.  I had no idea that there is a special overcasting foot.  But I found one that looked like the drawing and had a "3" on it in my accessory bin.


Lo and behold it does an awesome job of overcasting without pulling on the edge of the fabric, which helps me maintain an even seam allowance!  At that moment, I was very grateful to have such a "smart" machine, hehe.

Pfaff Smater, overcast stitch

This is how the underside of the patchwork skirt looks now.  Very tidy and ready to withstand lots of washings!

Pfaff Smater, triple stitch

Another cool stitch on the front of the machine is this triple stitch (option 3) that makes each stitch more pronounced.  I used that function when quilting all three baby granny quilts!  It looks just a little bit like hand-stitching. 

Ok, there you have it!  For more details on the Pfaff Smarter Pro 1100 and the other machines I tried, see my original post about shopping for machines.  If you have any questions about the Smarter, do ask!

******Update October 2012*******

Unfortunately, I've been having problems with my machine.  The automatic tension adjustment stopped working mid summer.  Since then I have to manually adjust the tension every time I turn on the machine or change stitches, even just to achieve a simple straight stitch.  Sometimes even with my adjusting, I can't get a proper tension.   Also, the needle threader broke.  And the automatic thread cutter often unthreads the machine when engaged.  I still use the machine for quilting, because I enjoy the large throat space.  I've also become addicted to the knee lift.  But, at this point I am very disappointed with it's overall performance.  Sorry to bear bad news!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

3 baby Grannies

I've felt a little stuck-in-the-mud lately, when it comes to project progress.  I wager finishing three nearly identical quilts all in a row did me in.  That and the garden makeover - ugh.  Thank goodness I finished sewing the do. Good Stitches label on the last one this morning, while Aria practiced her math.

three Baby Grannies

Three baby Grannies.

with do. Good Stitches, Faith circle

The granny square blocks were made in collaboration with the Faith circle of do. Good Stitches.

Baby Grannies
Several members volunteered to make more than the customary 2 monthly blocks so that I could create three quilts total - boy, girl and gender neutral.  The boy quilt is made with Kona aqua solids and the neutral quilt in Kona snow.

behind our barn...

All are machine bound with my zigzag stitch finish.  I really don't do it any other way.  After quilting, I hand-stitched these do. Good Stitches tags, which were designed for the bee by Lee of Freshly Pieced.

Baby Granny in girl

The girl quilt was made with Kona Peony solid, which is a really lovely shade of light pink.  I wish I would not have requested purple be included in the color scheme though.  I would have liked it better just pink/red/yellow/brown without the purple.  I'm not saying I don't like the quilt; I just want to be honest that I have these little regrets sometimes too.

Baby Granny in neutral

The gender neutral quilt was feeling a little "ho-hum" to me until I added the scrappy yellow/red border.  Adds a lot of character, don't you think?  I feel like the extra warm colors, combined with all the green and white in the blocks strikes just the right balance for truly gender neutral (instead of boy-in-disguise).

Modern Whimsy ducks backing

I was blessed to use donated batting and backing for all three of these charity quilts.  I want to thank The Warm Company for sending Warm & Natural batting and Robert Kaufman for sending yard cuts of Laurie Wisbrun's Modern Whimsy.

Modern Whimsy ducks backing

I used one-yard cuts for a whole-cloth backing, landing my quilts at 36" square.  The Modern Whimsy Ducks print was perfect in Park/Blue for the boy quilt and in Meadow/Pink for the girl quilt.

Modern Whimsy vines backing

This red and green Modern Whimsy Vine print is exactly gender neutral.  Sew Modern has a nice selection of the Modern Whimsy collection, as well as every shade of Kona cotton!

with Faith circle of do.Good Stitches

Oh, and the quilting.   That was fun!  I followed Jolene's lead by quilting around each granny layout.  Very satisfying!

baby quilts for Daybreak Pregnancy Center

Tomorrow the kids and I will drop off these charity baby quilts at the Daybreak Crisis Pregnancy Center on our way home from strawberry picking.  I hope they each become a symbol of love over some sweet new baby.  While it's true that the making was sometimes less-than-thrilling, I am grateful to have the opportunity to partner with many to do good with my two hands.

If you are interested in joining us at do. Good Stitches, please visit our Flickr page to get a feel for the group and register for membership via this form.  I'm always organizing new circles for folks that are active on Flickr and enjoy working in a modern quilting style!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Festival of Scrappiness

Welcome!  Springtime is the best time for festivals.  If you could be here, I imagine we'd hang our quilts outside in the gentle breezes to admire all the colors and shapes with a happy chorus of oohs and ahhs. Accompanied by some strawberry shortcake? Mmm... the tastes of spring!

Please join me in this virtual festival to celebrate the beauty and joy of scrap quilting.  The Festival of Scrappiness welcomes all!  You may enter multiple quilt in the festival, so long as each one is:

*a finished quilt top of any size.  "Finished" means you are ready to quilt and bind it.  Mini's can be quite small and are often hung on the wall.  Other patchwork projects, such as pillows or mug rugs, do not qualify. 

*made "mostly" from scraps.  If the quilt originated as a concept to use scraps and you succeeded in making the quilt top with at least 60% scraps, it's a sure thing.  I realize that often you'll need to use some yardage (especially solids) to bring your idea to life. 

*completed in 2012.  It doesn't matter when you started your quilt top, if you finished the quilt top this year, it can enter the festival!

The Festival of Scrappiness is open for entries today, March 26th through March 28th (midnight, eastern time). On the 29th random winners for all 20 door prizes will be announced, as well as our grand prize winner of the Flea Market Fancy collection, gifted by Sew Love Fabrics.  Some prizes do not ship internationally, see details in prize announcement posts here, here, here and here.

A festival is most fun if you also enjoy the quilts others have made.  Please honor some quilts that catch your eye with a visit!

Enter your quilt(s) below by uploading an image from your computer.  The form will request the "URL of your blog post" but you may leave that section blank if you do not keep a blog.  Blogging about the festival is not at all required.  However, if you have blogged about the quilt you are entering, link up to it so we can read more!

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